What happened here then?


INSPIRE mandates the cataloging and sharing of a wide range of environmental data sets. Hopefully in time we will have access to a geographically complete and broadly themed data resource across the EU. But to understand the impact of human activity on our environment or for that matter on other societal factors we need to have access to information on change and this implies a resource that includes historical data. 

Jump back to what many believe to be the the very first land use and ownership survey of England – the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta has been preserved as an original source document and is also now available to researchers both as a scanned version (avoiding exposing the original to light and atmospheric contamination) it has also been partially captured digiitally allowing modern day researchers to undertake analysis within a GIS. The Magna Carta has been described as a unique insight into mediaeval English history at a critical juncture in English and European history, imagine if it had not been preserved. 

So that leads me to the incredible volumes of digital geoinformation that are being captured at an ever increasing rate (particularly remote sensed). Currently we do  not have a policy on the archiving of the data covered by the directive, surely we will need to in the near future? Longer term however the challenges of indexing and archiving geoinformation will require both innovation and commitment –

  • how will we ensure that data that has been archived can be read by the devices and systems of future generations?
  • what data should we archive and at what frequency?
  • is all data worth archiving because someone sometime may have an important use for it?

In 1986 the BBC initiated the Domesday Project in which school kids created a digital video/audio record of modern day life for future generations. The project was published onto 2 12″ video discs, less than 20 years later these discs had become obsolete as there were no working players remaining. Fortunately the national Archive and partners were able to extract the project and transfer to a (hopefully) more long lasting medium and format. 

Hopefully geospatial data can be archived for future generations/millennia more successfully.